Manchester City expect Raheem Sterling to leave this summer, with Chelsea set to step up their interest in the England winger once Romelu Lukaku’s loan spell at Internazionale ends.
Thomas Tuchel is keen to bolster his failed attack and Chelsea, who are set to give Lukaku permission to seal a return to Inter, plan to ramp up their transfer activity soon. Sterling is high on their target list and City are unlikely to stand in the way of the 27-year-old.
City have increased their attacking options by signing Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and Julián Álvarez from River Plate and, with Sterling’s contract expiring next summer, the Premier League champions are ready to cash in on him. It has been suggested they want £50-60m.
There is unlikely to be a lack of interest in Sterling, even though he hasn’t started many of City’s biggest games in the past two years, and his appeal to Chelsea is evident. They lacked a ruthless advantage last season, when Sterling scored 17 goals, and he would represent an upgrade on many of Tuchel’s options in the final third.
Sterling’s ability to play on the frontline makes him an attractive option for Tuchel. Chelsea are aware it won’t be easy to replace Lukaku, who disappointed after his £97.5million transfer from Inter last year, with another target man. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski wants to join Barcelona, City landed Haaland and Liverpool bought Darwin Núñez.
This means Chelsea could look for other ways to set up their attack. They are also eyeing Ousmane Dembélé, the French winger is expected to leave Barcelona on a free. Tuchel managed Dembélé at Dortmund and rates him highly, although there are doubts over the 25-year-old’s injury record. Another option, RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, may be out of reach. Chelsea are also interested in City’s Gabriel Jesus, but Arsenal are paving the way for the Brazilian’s signature.
Sources say it’s only a matter of time before Lukaku joins Inter. Chelsea’s new owner Todd Boehly has backed Tuchel’s decision to part ways with the striker. Lukaku doesn’t fit Tuchel’s system and didn’t have an easy relationship with the German.
The 29-year-old is desperate to return to Inter, who have negotiated terms with Chelsea. A loan fee of £10million could be enough, and Inter will also have to cover part of Lukaku’s £325,000 weekly salary. A direct loan is easier than a swap deal, although Chelsea have expressed interest in Inter defenders Denzel Dumfries, Alessandro Bastoni and Martin Skriniar.
Chelsea need defensive reinforcements after the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger, with César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso also possibly on the way out. They hope to strike a deal with Sevilla’s Jules Koundé soon and have targeted Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol, Atlético Madrid’s José María Giménez, Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt and Villarreal’s Pau Torres. New links have also surfaced with City’s Nathan Aké, who was previously at Chelsea.
It remains to be seen whether City want to sell Aké. They are considering whether to sell Oleksandr Zinchenko, wanted by Everton and West Ham. Zinchenko has replaced City’s left-back but wants to play in central midfield.
Guardiola is after a conventional left-back and is determined to sign Marc Cucurella from Brighton. Brighton want £50m but City believe £40m could be enough. Chelsea and Newcastle are also interested in Cucurella but City are his first choice.